Man and Woman Theatre, a new theatre company that will focus on one-man, one-woman plays, will perform their first production in Wright Hall’s Arena Theatre from May 2 through May 4.
The play, Gruesome Playground Injuries, written by 2010 Pulitzer finalist Rajiv Joseph, focuses on the relationship between two people, Doug and Kayleen. This is shown through eight vignettes, presented at different points in their lives.
Megan Caton, a fourth-year dramatic art major who plays Kayleen, was drawn to the play for its realism.
“It’s about two real humans that are walking through life and trying to cope, trying to be okay,” Caton said. “The characters are relatable and not polished people, and the play shows the gruesome and messy aspects of what it takes to grow up.”
Cooper Wise, a fourth-year dramatic art major who plays Doug, was also drawn to the characters in the play.
“These characters are unhealthy, flawed, kind of crazy, disgusting people, but also very human and beautiful,” Wise said. “Certain qualities of myself are similar to Doug while certain qualities aren’t, so finding those connections was part of the acting process. So much of Doug is a risk taker and a crazy person, while my public life is reserved and appropriate, so I needed to connect to that other side of myself.”
Man and Woman Theatre, which consists solely of Caton and Wise, began as a way for the two to make opportunities for themselves in the dramatic world.
“Cooper and I are both graduating and going into the real world after this quarter,” Caton said. “People kept saying to us, ‘If you don’t get the roles you want, create your own opportunities,’ which works in all fields. However, Cooper said one day, ‘Let’s make Man and Woman Theatre,’ which was was a joke at first but after some thought ended up making the whole thing legitimate.”
Wise views the company’s small size as an asset.
“There are a lot of one-man, one-woman shows that are interesting to us,” Wise said. “This is also a way to explore gender issues, which we’re both very interested in.”
Their production of Gruesome Playground Injuries came about when Caton and Wise noticed that there wasn’t a play being produced by the Theater and Dance Department during Spring Quarter.
After asking for approval from the department manager and receiving a major advisor, Caton and Wise enlisted help from the tech department, borrowed costumes from the costume department and brought in MFA candidates, including Lindsay Beamish and Jan Lee Marshall, to direct different vignettes in the play.
“As a director this has been a rewarding experience,” Marshall said in an email. “Since both Megan and Cooper come to rehearsals with their actor homework complete we have lots of material with which to experiment. They have chosen a wonderful piece of theatre that is filled with nuances for both actors and directors to explore.”
Both Caton and Wise have found the experience to be informative.
“In addition to acting, I was also figuring out the logistical aspects of producing a play with two people,” Wise said. “I’ve learned so much about acting and theatre by doing this that I wouldn’t have gotten from signing up for a class.”
Gruesome Playground Injuries will play in the Arena Theatre of Wright Hall on May 2 and May 3 at 8 p.m. and on May 4 at 2 p.m. Admission is free with a suggested donation of $5. The play contains blood, strong language and adult themes.
JOHN KESLER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Abby Alcala.